Grebner is a resident of East Lansing, Michigan. He was a student at Michigan State University in 1970, and became involved in politics at the time of the 18-year-old vote in 1971. He was an Ingham County Commissioner from 1977 to 2012, except 1981-84, and served as board chair and chair of the Finance Committee.
He is the president of Practical Political Consulting, a voter list and consulting firm which works mostly for Democrats in Michigan. In recent years, the firm has been expanding its operations to include Wisconsin.
Grebner is a commentator on politics and political issues, and is often interviewed on radio and television and quoted in news articles. He also writes on "Technical Politics" for the web site Michigan Liberal.
Grebner is noted for his iconoclastic and humorous political tactics. The New York Times wrote that "Calling Mr. Grebner eccentric would be too obvious." David Josar, of the Detroit News, calls him "super wonk". During his campaigns for election and re-election as county commissioner, he has used self-deprecating slogans such as "No Worse Than The Rest," "He May Be a Fool, But He's Our Fool," and (in a coupon book) "Buy One Politician, Get One Free." A humorous letter he sent to his constituents in 1986, announcing his plans for re-election, was reprinted in the "Readings" section of Harper's Magazine. In 2009 Grebner filed a lawsuit based on alterations to this Wikipedia page that he alleges were defamatory.
Grebner has been frequently involved in public controversies, typically as an advocate for liberal positions, for voting rights, for freedom of information, and for the interests of university students:
- To resolve a $4 million deficit, the county's 2009 budget cut 19 full-time positions, including six in the sheriff's department, prompting criticism of possible impact on public safety. Grebner, as chair of the finance committee, defended the budget, saying: "It won't be unbearable; other [counties] get by with a lot less."
- In 2007, he led a group of plaintiffs who sued to overturn the Michigan presidential primary law as unconstitutional. Judge Collette of Ingham County Circuit Court ruled in plaintiffs' favor, striking down the primary; that ruling was upheld by a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals, but was reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court. A different group of plaintiffs sued on similar grounds in federal court. On March 26, 2008, a federal district judge ruled that the primary law violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.
- Grebner and his firm have frequently been plaintiffs in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits in Michigan and Wisconsin.
- In 2004 and 2006, his firm conducted a large-scale experiment, called ETOV, to "shame" nonvoters into participating in elections. The results of the study were published in the American Political Science Review.
- As county commissioner, Grebner strongly defended the county's practice of selling pound animals for medical research, and called animal rights activists "fanatics".
- An essay Grebner wrote about methods to increase voter turnout suggested a focus on jail inmates held before trial.
- Summer of Love: Bygone era marked by political change, freedom, State News, July 12, 2007
- Ingham County Board of Commissioners web site
- Grebner Masters the Art of the List, Lansing Business Monthly, February 2008
- Updated pamphlet grades 'U' profs, State News, February 11, 2003
- Golden grading, State News, February 12, 2003
- Jack Lessenberry interviews Mark Grebner, Michigan Radio, November 1, 2006
- Election 2004: Mark Grebner on the District 8 Congressional Race, WKAR Radio, July 12, 2004
- Jack Lessenberry interviews Mark Grebner, Michigan Radio, April 28, 2008
- Absentee Ballots Tainted?, Detroit News, October 30, 2005
- Alternative poll: Prop 2 sure to pass, Michigan Daily, November 6, 2006
- Obama is playing catch-up in Michigan, Detroit Free Press, June 4, 2008
- McCain Makes a Run at Michigan, A Wavering Democratic Stronghold, Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2008
- Obama effort worries some volunteers, Detroit Free Press, September 26, 2008
- Michigan Liberal web site
- Getting a Lock on Michigan Voters, List by List, New York Times, November 7, 2000
- "For first time, Cockrel ahead of Bing in robo-poll", Detroit News web site, April 14, 2009
- Detroit Free Press, January 9, 2006
- State House Campaigns Offer Poor Options, Lansing State Journal, editorial, October 23, 2008
- A political soft-sell (campaign letter from Mark Grebner), Harper's, June 1987
- "Grebner sues Dennis Lennox, two others for Wiki-based defamation", Michigan Liberal, Jul 08, 2009
- Brayton, Ed (8 July 2009). "Grebner files libel suit over Wikipedia edits". The Michigan Messenger. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
- County Taking Drastic Measures to Control Budget, WLNS News, October 29, 2008
- "Judge blocks Michigan's Jan. 15 primary," Detroit News, November 7, 2007
- Judge rules for voters, principles, Detroit Free Press, November 10, 2007
- "Court Rejects Early Primary," Washington Post, November 16, 2007
- "Michigan Court OK's Early Primary," New York Times, November 21, 2007
- Lawsuit disputes rules for primary, Ann Arbor News, January 12, 2008
- Green Party of Michigan et al v. Michigan Secretary of State
- Grebner v Clinton Charter Township, 216 Mich App 736
- Grebner v. Schiebel, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, 2000
- Analyst plans to publicize voting records, Lansing State Journal, August 3, 2004
- Attention: This man is watching you, Lansing City Pulse, August 1, 2006
- "Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Largescale Field Experiment", American Political Science Review, February 2008
- Grebner has one word for animal activists: ‘Fanatics’, Lansing City Pulse, April 16, 2003
- Animal rights story mostly right, Lansing City Pulse, April 23, 2003
- County likely to ban smoking at work sites, Lansing City Pulse, January 9, 2002
- Seeking a captive audience, Detroit Free Press, February 20, 2008
- grebner.com, official web site of Grebner's firm, Practical Political Consulting
- Official Biography at Ingham County
- Speeches of Mark Grebner, Sound recordings at MSU Vincent Voice Library
- Mark Grebner articles at USA Today